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Wednesday, December 19 , 2018, 12:15 am | Fair 45º


Opposition Builds Over County’s Proposed Construction Agreement

Contractors and others say the agreement, which has yet to be written, would limit the competition for projects and raise costs for taxpayers

In February, a proposal to create a Construction Stabilization Agreement on bidding for Santa Barbara County projects was approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors, while the local construction community remained mostly unaware. On Wednesday, opponents rallied against the proposal, which they say would cut down on competition for public works project bids and increase the cost to taxpayers.

The agreement itself, initiated by 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal, is not yet written, leaving its implications vague. At first glance, its goals appear to be decreasing costs to the county and keeping county projects staffed by local workers.

The supervisors directed staff to work with all interested stakeholders while creating it, before returning to the board for a vote.

The county also is considering implementing the agreement as a pilot for a few upcoming projects to better evaluate it, Carbajal said in an e-mail to Noozhawk.

Although the exact language of the agreement won’t be known until it’s written, Carbajal said that both union and nonunion contractors would be able to bid on projects covered under the CSA.

The representatives of contractors associations who gathered outside the Santa Barbara County Administration Building on Wednesday said the agreement would limit nonunion businesses from bidding on county capital projects.

“It’s a solution in search of a problem,” said Eric Christen, executive director of the nonprofit Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction.

Robin Hayhurst, one of the few people who spoke at Tuesday’s board meeting against the proposal, said about 85 percent of the county’s contractors are nonunion, and any discriminatory agreement wouldn’t add up to fair competition.

She and others who spoke were mostly upset at the county’s process in putting this agreement into being — without seeking any opinion from the nonunion contractor community.

Hayhurst, who is on the board of the Santa Maria Valley Contractors Association, said the proposal isn’t the answer to improving local jobs, as contractors leave the county for work even now.

“Do you think Santa Barbara County can keep Santa Barbara County contractors alive? No,” she said. “We all work the tri-county area anyway.”

Joe Campanelli, William Parris and others spoke about their anger at the process — not unions.

“We want the best bid to win,” Campanelli said.

Nonunion general contractors weren’t the only ones out opposing the agreement; they were joined by members of union firms and the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce.

“We want to make all businesses strong,” chamber board chairwoman Julie McGovern said.

Contractor associations of Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Ventura County have vocally opposed the proposal, and many members attended Wednesday’s gathering.

Jack Martin of Action Roofing brought three of his employees. Action Roofing has won bids for many county projects, most recently for the Lompoc water district and school systems throughout the county.

“We’re going to follow this all the way to the end,” one of his employees said.

Once written, the agreement will go back before the Board of Supervisors for a vote.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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